Love, Relationships and Finance: Net Worth and Self Worth pt. 1

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Although my spouse and I contribute proportional amounts of our salaries, my share is smaller, so I feel as f I’m not pulling my weight. What can I do?

In spite of how you may feel at times, the smaller amount you earn does not make you more or less important, deserving, or entitled to participate in decisions. Many people who do meaningful work, vital work, are underpaid -- teachers, social workers, stay-at-home moms -- while others are paid handsomely for work that in the long run may not make a difference to anyone. Do not -- we repeat, do not --value yourself or your partner by income. Begin, and continue, as equals. People first, then money. If this is a problem for either of you, there is emotional work that you need to tackle now!

My partner and l have lived together for about three years, and I have supported her financially during that time. My income is large in comparison to hers, and it seems that this discrepancy has created a chasm between us. She feels she will never be able to match my contributions to the relationship, so what’s the point? How can I level the playing field?

Different income levels can become a sticking point in a relationship, but they don’t have to be. Money can be one of the most creative forces in the world, as well as one of the most destructive. What’s certain is that money is a force we have to reckon with. Those with less money or with simpler possessions than others around them -- especially when the others are their partners or spouses -- are likely to feel inadequate or intimidated. Finding a solution begins with acknowledging the problem, as you have done.

Then how do we bridge the gap created by our different incomes?

First of all, be very careful not to create an environment in which your partner feels that her lack of Financial resources is holding you back or keeping you from doing the things you love; that can only add to any feeling she may have that she’s less than a full partner, and may also make her feel that she will never have -- or be -- enough. Keep this in mind before blurting out, “Hey, let’s go to Hawaii for the weekend!” Tailor some of your activities to her resources. Try eating at home or in restaurants that she can afford, too. It is very important that she be able to carry her own weight when it comes to money. Otherwise, be fore you know it, she’ll feel powerless, which leads to feeling resentful.

Second, I want you to examine your own heart. Deep down, do you feel your partner is worth less because she makes less? If so, is there anything that you can do to help her make more? Ask your self what you believe makes for true equality and where equality lies. In a bankbook? In your bed room? In your heart? Once you’ve examined yourself, talk with your partner about her perceptions of your different financial capabilities. Be as honest, supportive, and reassuring as you can be.

If your partner were to ask us for advice, we would say this: Recognize that gifts of the heart are priceless. Your girl/boyfriend may be able to buy anything she/he wants for her/himself but s/he can’t buy you and s/he can’t buy love. What you bring to this relationship has great value that has nothing to do with money. You do, however, have to be strong and not overextend yourself financially just to keep up with him. You have to pay your own way when you can, and know when to draw the line when it comes to matching your partner’s spending.

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Monday, May 5, 2008 11:05